Wallace H. Coulter Foundation: Grants for Higher Education


OVERVIEW: The Coulter Foundation supports universities working on biomedical engineering exploration, with endowed grants that support lab development, research grants, and fellowships. Though there are some exceptions, the majority of Coulter funding is allocated to support researchers at longtime partner universities. 

IP TAKE: Where the foundation gives, it gives big, but for first-time grantseekers, earning funding from Coulter is likely to be an uphill effort.

PROFILE: Since its founding in 1999, the Coulter Foundation has bolstered biomedical engineering departments at universities across the country. The goal of its grant programs plainly stated, is “to address the under-served, under-resourced, and/or under-represented,” which it does through “risk capital, expertise, and guidance” in order to help “innovative initiatives realize their potential.”

As per the foundation, Coulter was highly dedicated to efforts to “improve health care and make these improvements available worldwide.” As such, one of the major programs at Coulter is its Translational Research program. Broadly defined, translational research is that which seeks to move research from the laboratory into a usable form that can benefit human patients.

A key effort in this area is the Coulter Translational Partnership Award in Biomedical Engineering.  Now in its second phase, the partnership has included more than 15 public and private research institutions, and these schools receive $1 million annually over the course of five years to develop and enhance biomedical education.

According to the foundation, “partnerships are intended to increase the number and effective collaborations between biomedical engineers and clinicians, supporting the movement of promising technologies to clinical application, and developing sustainable processes,” using translational research to produce “outcomes which save, extend, and improve patient lives suffering from any disease or condition, in any size market, in any discipline, in any country around the world.” Schools in the partnership include many of the top biomedical engineering schools in the country, such as Johns Hopkins University, Georgia Tech, and Duke University.

Partnership schools will likely drive a significant portion of the Coulter Foundation's higher education funding in the next few years, as this program was recently expanded as a replacement for the separate Coulter Translational Research Awards, which supported investigators in individual translational research projects. For researchers and graduate students at these schools, that's welcome news. The foundation's continued support goes to scholarships and research grants each year.

Outside of biomedical engineering, the Coulter Foundation has given support to colleges, universities, and professional societies, particularly those facing hardships. With the underlying goal of supporting “programs that are consistent with, and that will serve as a tribute” to Coulter himself, the foundation has provided million-dollar support for higher education institutions following major disasters, for example.  In addition, Coulter has supported colleges making efforts to support women who are pursuing engineering degrees, as they traditionally have been underrepresented in the field. Professional societies who have benefited from Coulter support include the American Society of Hematology, the American Association of Clinical Chemistry, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Unfortunately for colleges, universities, and higher ed nonprofits, Coulter has generally been pretty consistent in its giving, with the majority of its funding allocated to support researchers at longtime partner universities. Where the foundation gives, it gives big, but earning funding from Coulter is likely to be an uphill effort.


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